Minister of State Security Siyabonga Cwele has announced a major overhaul of the South African intelligence community that may see the disappearance of some structures in order to cut duplication as well as waste and “put intelligence at the core of government business.”
Announcing the move on Friday, Cwele said too much of the country`s estimated R2-billion intelligence budget is “being spent on corporate affairs rather than on operations which is the core business of any intelligence service.”
He also announced his ministry was reviewing the White Paper on Intelligence “which will inform our national security doctrine and strategy.The process of review will involve government departments, civil society and the general public.”
The minister added that President Jacob Zuma in May tasked him as well as his police, defence, home affairs, justice and prisons counterparts “to review the structures of the civilian intelligence community with the aim of developing a more effective and efficient intelligence architecture.”
Cwele says this is why in his “budget vote speech in July this year, I stated our intention to review the number of structures that had developed over the years and which we have found contributes to the challenges of coordination and a sufficient lack of focus in the intelligence community.
“I added then that our mission was to provide value for money as expected by the President, government and the people of South Africa,” he says.
“In our case, we were concerned that a large share of the budget allocated to the intelligence services was being spent on corporate affairs rather than on operations which is the core business of any intelligence service.
“Core business refers to the collection, correlation, evaluation, analyzing, interpreting and dissemination of intelligence – in a nutshell the provision of intelligence products – as well as instituting counter-intelligence measures such as vetting, for example, to uphold national security,” he adds.
While the minister did not go into explicit detail on the restructuring and the future of the current domestic National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and the foreign-focussed SA Secret Service, he did indicate the aim of the effort was “to refocus on intelligence priorities, improve controls over intelligence priorities and the budget, eliminate duplication and mobilise all of our resources (funds and personnel) to core business.”
“…a major concern is the duplication of resources particularly in the corporate services component and the huge challenge to more effectively coordinate the work of the number of structures in the civilian intelligence community.
A “single structure”
“We therefore believe that the creation of a single structure which will entail a foreign and domestic collection capacity and a centralised budget will address these challenges.
It is not clear if the restructuring will involved the merger of the NIA or SASS or their falling under a new structure.
Cwele did not say and an organogram released by his office depicting the new structure showed NIA and SASS as answering to a new State Security Agency.
Indications are this is an interim structure, Cwele noting that government believes “that the creation of a single command-and-control type structure will further contribute to our efforts to build a professional intelligence service [note the singular] to better serve the South African public.”
The NIA and SASS were established in 1995 following the amalgamation of statutory and non-statutory organisations. Overseeing them was the National Intelligence Coordinating Committee (NICOC).
The NIA and SASS has up to now operated as separate services, each with their own accounting officer, while the NICOC headed by a director general was administratively supported by NIA.
The heads of these organisations reported to a minister of intelligence services, there being no intelligence department.
Over the years, in an effort to create centres of specialisation, further structures were set up: the South African National Academy of Intelligence (SANAI), the National Communications Centre (NCC), the Office for Interception Centres (OIC), the Electronic Communications Security (Pty) Ltd, known as COMSEC and the Intelligence Services Council on Conditions of Employment (ISC).
Cwele said that each of these structures is headed by a deputy director general (DDG) and each of them has a corporate affairs capacity.
It is this proliferation of structures that has resulted in a large portion of the budget being spent on corporate services, the minister said.
“For example, we all know that information technology is highly costly, is constantly being developed and as such requires continual upgrading.The cost to business is enormous for IT alone and if not managed utilises a considerable share of the budget.
“The National Communications Centre, COMSEC and the Office for Interception Centres are highly technical environments that rely on state of art technology.Closer cooperation between these three structures will eliminate any further duplication and thus free up funds that can be invested elsewhere,” he said.
Legislative and policy changes
Cwele said his staff is giving immediate attention to the legislative amendments and budget restructuring the revamp requires.
Changes to the various Acts that govern the intelligence services should be in place by March next year, the minister added.
They will also study the redeployment and retraining of staff to focus on core business, the professionalising of the services, and “redefining our national security doctrine”.
The minister says operations “will continue unaffected as no staff working in these components will be affected by redeployment.”
Cwele also announced a number of appointments to drive the process. Mzuvukile Jeff Maqetuka was named director general of the new State Security Agency (SSA), while Lizo Gibson Njenje was confirmed as head of NIA and Rieaz “Mo” Shaik as head of the SASS.
Maqetuka is currently SA`s ambassador to Algeria. A 30-year intelligence veteran, he joined the ruling African National Congress` (ANC) Department of Intelligence and Security (DIS) in 1979. The ANC was then a banned organisation in SA dedicated to overthrowing the white-run Apartheid state.
He received military training in Mozambique and subsequently did an advanced course in intelligence in the then-German Democratic Republic (East Germany). Maqetuka served as NIA DDG from 1995 to 1997 and served in the same position at the SASS in 2000–2001. Subsequently he was appointed the National Coordinator of Intelligence at NICOC with the responsibility to coordinate all the intelligence structures.
Maqetuka in 2007 served as DG of the Department of Home Affairs. Academically he is in possession of BA Hons Degree in Contemporary Media Practice from University of Westminster, London; a Certificate in News Agency Journalism from the Julius Fucick School of Journalism in Prague and a Certificate course in strategic management from Stellenbosch University.
A brief profile provided by the State Security ministry notes Njenje`s involvement in intelligence craftwork span many years.
“He has served in different capacities, particularly at the senior level in the intelligence community. He began his career as deputy head counter intelligence in the ANC DIS. After the amalgamation of both the statutory and non-statutory he served the intelligence community as the DDG of both the SASS and the NIA at different times.
Njenje has studied at the Wharton Business School of the University of Pennsylvania, the Wits Business School and underwent intelligence training in the former East and West Germany, as well as in Moscow. He also received military training in Angola.
New SASS chief Shaik is a qualified optometrist who has worked as a lecturer and head of the Department of Optometry at the former University of Durban-Westville.
He served in the internal underground structures of the ANC, especially in Natal, as an intelligence operative. With the advent of democracy in 1994 Shaik was part of the Transitional Executive Council (TEC) team that facilitated the amalgamation of formerly hostile intelligence services into the new dispensation. He later served as Head of Ministerial Services to the Ministry of Intelligence Services and in 1997 was appointed the Deputy Coordinator of Intelligence Services.
In 1988 he became SA`s only Consul-General in Hamburg and later served as SA ambassador to Algeria. He became the Special Advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Head of Policy Research and Analysis Unit between 2003 and 2004.
He has more recently been CE of the Nkobi group of companies founded by his brother, Schabir, after the latter had to step down following conviction and a 15 year sentence for fraud and corruption. The KwaZulu-Natal High Court found Shaik at the turn of the century had a corrupt relationship with current President Jacob Zuma.
The ANC has welcomed the appointments and Cwele’s “commitment to restructure and transform the intelligence community.”
The party says the “appointments will bring to the South African intelligence community the much-needed stability and leadership. All the three newly-appointed most senior intelligence officials possess a wide intelligence experience in the ANC and in Government, having served in various capacities.”
But opposition parties slammed the appointments, especially that of Shaik.
Freedom Front Plus state security spokesman Pieter Groenewald said Shaik`s accession created “the impression that it is a case of nepotism and a political appointment.
“The Shaik family ties with President Zuma are controversial and his appointment to this position should therefore have been avoided.
“Mo Shaik initially resigned from the public service to assist with the Shaik family business and what has changed now to warrant his appointment as the new head of the SASS?
“In the Secret Service industry (sic), controversy should always be avoided and Shaik`s appointment is controversial per se”, Groenewald said.
Democratic Alliance state security shadow minister Theo Coetzee said “Zuma could not have found anyone less competent, or more hopelessly partisan, for this job.”
He says the “appointment has clearly been made to consolidate the Zuma faction`s hold over the South African intelligence community. It will no doubt mean that the intelligence community will be used to pursue partisan battles, to an even greater degree than it has in the past,” a reference to the reported abuse of the NIA during a succession struggle in the ANC between Zuma and former president Thabo Mbeki.
“It is certainly no coincidence that Mo Shaik is an important political ally and close personal friend of the President,” Coetzee added.
“President Zuma has set about systematically deploying cadres to key positions in the state, positions which should be filled by qualified, non-partisan officials. Nowhere should this principle apply more than to the heads of the intelligence services.
“The state security services are in a mess, and we need capable people in place to sort out those problems. This appointment, on the other hand, will likely further politicise an already divided, politically abused department, and blur the parameters of executive influence.
“In particular, there remain serious outstanding questions over the use of tapes, possibly procured illegally from a state intelligence agency, in the National Prosecuting Authority`s decision to drop charges against President Zuma earlier this year.
“In these circumstances, how could it possibly be appropriate for a close personal friend of the President – indeed, the brother of the man convicted for his ‘generally corrupt relationship` with the President – to be appointed to a senior post within the intelligence ranks?
“It also beggars belief that the seemingly incompetent Mzuvukile Maqetuka has been appointed to head up the new (State) Security Agency.
“Maqetuka`s disastrous reign as director-general of Home Affairs saw that department reduced to a state of disrepair. Maqetuka`s inability to put even basic systems into place caused the delivery of services to grind to a halt, and we are, today, living with the results. Once again we have the ANC rewarding, and promoting, incompetence,” Coetzee averred.
The ANC said it rejected “with the contempt it deserves” any notion that Shaik’s appointment had anything to with his brother Schabir.
“The ANC further condemns narrow remarks by the opposition which has described the appointments as ‘ANC reward`.”
Coetzee also slammed the planned consolidation of the inteligence structures, saying it could lead to the further abuse of the intelligence services for partisan political purposes. He was, however, in favour of cutting waste and duplication but said this could be achieved by other means.